Southern Durham wide receiver Maurice Trowell, an N.C. State recruit, said he never doubted he was playing on a great high school football team even after it lost two of its first three games.
Southern Durham opened the season with a 29-24 loss to rival Durham Hillside; an easy 62-17 win after a long road trip to South Brunswick, and a decisive home loss to Scotland County, 53-31.
The Spartans, the Big Eight 3A preseason favorites, were 1-2, but their confidence was not shaken.
“I wouldn’t say I was devastated by losing to Hillside, but it hurt and I wish we could play them again,” Trowell said. “Scotland is a great team and we didn’t play our best. But those teams were the kind of teams you see in the playoffs. Playing them early in the season helped to make us better.
“To me, it showed that we had to get better, but that we could be really good.”
Hillside and Scotland County have been among the top 10 4A teams in The Associated Press rankings this year. Southern Durham is in the 3A classification.
“Those games made us a better team, better coaches and better players,” Southern Durham coach Adrian Jones said. “We learned from the mistakes that we made in those games and got them corrected. It also helped us learn to handle adversity and it humbled us.”
The dose of humility probably helped, because the Spartans had plenty of reason for optimism.
Trowell said he has never played on a more talented team. Quarterback Kendall Hinton has thrown for 1,472 yards and the Spartans are averaging 256 yards rushing.
“We spread the defense and we can run or throw,” Trowell said. “We’ve got a lot of weapons.”
Last week, Southern Durham pounded Cardinal Gibbons 45-28 in a game matching teams that are expected to contend with Orange for the Big Eight 3A title. Orange and Southern Durham will play the last week of the regular season.
Trowell had three catches for 103 yards in the win against Cardinal Gibbons, with touchdown receptions of 86 and 6 yards. He has 33 catches for 626 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
Jones said Trowell is a game-changer.
“He does so much for this team. I am thankful that I don't have to game plan for him week in and week out,” Jones said.
Trowell is 6-foot, weighs 177 pounds and runs 40 yards in 4.4 seconds. His speed is what caught a University of North Carolina assistant’s eye when Trowell was a sophomore.
“They couldn’t recruit me then, but they told me that they thought I could develop into a college player and that I needed to keep my grades up,” Trowell said.
It was the first time he ever thought of playing college football.
Eventually, lots of college coaches told him he could play college football. Last June he became one of N.C. State’s first commitments.
He liked new Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren, recruiter Des Kitchings and receivers coach Frisman Jackson, and he wanted the chance to play close to home. Plus, former Southern Durham teammate Tony Creecy, a Wolfpack running back, kept telling him to come.
The potential of playing early appealed to him, too.
Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, said Trowell is versatile and could have an impact on the college level.
“Maurice can play slot or outside, runs crisp routes and is the kind of player who does everything well but nothing spectacular,” Farrell said. “He should be a very steady, reliable receiver at the college level and is a good fit for spread formations.”
For now, though, he does not envision himself in a Wolfpack uniform. Southern Durham (5-2, 3-0) has his full attention.
“There is no question in my mind that we can play for the state championship,” he said. “Our key is focus. We have to be focused on what the coaching staff has prepared us to do. The regular season gets us ready for the playoffs. We know what it is like to play tough teams. Our coaches have prepared us for that. Now it is a matter of us concentrating on what we have been taught.”